A BLOG POST BY STEPHENIE FOSTER We had another amazing (and packed) day, starting at 7 am and ending around 10 pm. We met with candidates for office and those providing extraordinary service to Haitians. We started with a 7 am mass at St. Damien’s, a complex of hospitals and school rooms, located 500 meters from the US Embassy on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince. Father (and Dr.) Rick Frechette runs this amazing center, in a calm and hopeful oasis. There were literally hundreds of people either being cared for, or waiting for care. We were all so impressed with the dedication of those working at St. Damien’s. The hospital was critical in treating a large number of cholera victims in the outbreak and those working there built a cholera ward in four weeks time! Later in the day, we visited KOFAVIV (the Commission of Women Victims for Victims), and met Jayne Fleming, an American lawyer who helps Haitian women who have been the victims of gender-based violence, fight for their rights and for justice. We also were moved by the many brave women we met, who had suffered sometimes unspeakable violence but are resilient and able to talk about what needs to change so that others aren’t the victims of violence. Especially striking is that simple things like patrols, whistles and lights in camps can reduce incidence of attacks.
At Femmes en Democratie, led by my wonderful friend Danielle Saint-Lot, we met with seven of the women running for parliament – two have already been elected, having made it through the first round with a majority of the vote. (I was so pleased to be back with FED, an affiliate of Vital Voices, having first worked with them in 2003 when I traveled to Port-au-Prince to help on advocacy and public speaking skill training). The women candidates gave us a first-hand glimpse of their life on the campaign trail, which is very different from the campaign trail in the US. We saw their strength and heard about fortitude in the face of extreme adversity, violence and intimidation. We were inspired by them and they dedication to serving their constituents.
We were also privileged to meet with one of the two candidates for President, Madame Manigat (We were sorry that we couldn’t meet with the other, Michel Martelly). Madame Manigat was very impressive; she spoke about her priorities and the need to work on health care and education. She was especially passionate about the need for Haiti to be a serious country, not a country dependent on others for charity.
We ended the day at a lovely dinner where we relaxed and continued to learn about Haiti and how to best understand this beautiful yet troubled place.